Oral argument: Jan. 11, 2010
Appealed from: Supreme Court of Virginia (Feb. 29, 2008)
SIXTH AMENDMENT, CONFRONTATION CLAUSE, FORENSIC EVIDENCE
This case involves how a state can comply with the Confrontation Clause when presenting certificates of forensic analysis into evidence, rather than having the forensic analyst testify to the results of the evidence testing. In June 2009, the Supreme Court held in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts that certificates of analysis must be accompanied by an opportunity to cross-examine the forensic analyst who prepared the report. However, Virginia Code Sections 19.2-187 and 19.2-187.1 allow for a defendant to question a forensic analyst at trial by calling him as a defense witness. Petitioners Mark Briscoe and Sheldon Cypress argue that this violates Melendez-Diaz and the Confrontation Clause by shifting the burden to the defendant and creating a waiver of a constitutional right through inaction. Virginia claims that the scheme is constitutional because the defendants are on notice of the charges against them and may still call the forensic analyst as a witness themselves. This case could affect trial strategy and the cost of presenting forensic evidence, as well as provide an opportunity for the Court to examine the recent 5-4 Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts decision, where recently retired Justice David Souter cast a deciding vote.